Most of Milken knows Ms. Jessie Mallor as one of Milken’s Jewish Law teachers, but there are so many more sides to her than the eye can see. The Roar sat down with her to get more insight on her passions and background.
How long have you been working at Milken?
This is either my 8th or 9th year. I honestly can’t remember. I feel like I have been here my whole life.
Did you always know that you were going to be a Jewish Studies teacher?
I definitely did not think it was something I wanted to do. My grandfather found something that I wrote for my 6th grade yearbook. The question was about what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said a lawyer or a poet. I definitely never thought that I was going to be teaching, even though teaching is very strong in my family. I thought I was going to run an art museum or a children’s museum. Museums are my happy place. I just really love learning.
How did you decide to become a Jewish Studies teacher?
I went to Poland for the first time with a program and we were driving out of Midonick, and everyone was trying to process what they had just seen. It was the first concentration camp that we went to and I remember saying to the Rabbi who was running the trip, ‘how do people make sense of this?’ He responded by saying, ‘well what do you wanna do?’ I still remember where I was sitting on the bus when I decided at that moment that I was going to become a Jewish Studies teacher.
I have noticed that you have a very positive outlook on life. Where does this all stem from?
I have not always had such a positive outlook on life. I’ve had struggles with depression and anxiety pretty much my whole life. The kind of compassion that I now have is the kind of compassion you have after going through something really hard. I think it is really important to demystify mental health and coping. Everyone is broken. There is a beautiful line in Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Anthem,’ where he says ‘there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’. I think it’s not really all about positivity, but more about balance. You can be two things at once. You can be sad and you can see something better out there on the horizon.
It is known around the Milken community that you like to make your own clothes. How long have you been doing this?
Making clothes is definitely a passion of mine outside of teaching, working with kids and social justice. Making my own clothes by far is my favorite thing to do. I have been crafting and knitting my whole life because art runs in my family.
I could never find clothes that I liked or that fit right when I shopped in stores, so about four years ago I started reading these sewing blogs about women making their own clothes. I remember thinking to myself ‘wow, how do they do this; this is such magic.’ I talked to my sister and mom about starting to make my own clothes and they both insisted that I wouldn’t like it. But about two years ago I was like I’m just going to learn how to do it. I went to Joann’s and bought a cheap sewing machine. The minute I started to sew, I became obsessed. Whenever I sit down and start sewing, I feel transported. I haven’t been to a mall or looked at a fashion magazine. I just don’t really like the things I find in stores. I don’t think people’s individuality can really be represented in the clothing you find in stores. Women oftentimes are self conscious about not fitting into the clothing that they see in stores. Women should not have to feel bad about their bodies because a store does not have the right sizes for them to wear.
How would you describe your style?
My sister describes my style as eccentric aunt, which is funny because I am eccentric, and I am an aunt. I think of it as a bohemian French art teacher in the 80s.
Next time you see Ms. Mallor on campus stop her, say hello, and get to know her unique style and personality firsthand.